There was a very interesting article in last week’s Sunday Independent LIFE magazine, and it has got a lot of people talking – about money. Author money, no less. *sharp intake of breath*
The piece, by Emily Hourican, made for very interesting reading indeed and includes some fascinating comments and insights from authors about the thorny subject of earnings. I was also mentioned in the piece (ahem) and had my photo splashed alongside Maeve Binchy and Donal Walsh, which was a lovely surprise! But, as they say, enough about me ….
Interestingly – although not surprisingly – some authors who had been approached to comment for the article had politely declined. Others were refreshingly open and others were subtly discreet. The thing I find most interesting about this article is the extent to which people feel that writers – possibly more than any other profession I know – are expected to discuss their earnings openly. I’m really not sure why that is. Would we expect our friends and family who work in other professions to be as honest? I can’t imagine a dinner party where you would meet a vet or a hairdresser or a librarian or any other job, where it would be considered reasonable to turn around and ask what they earn. I don’t think it is really anybody else’s business is it? But that’s maybe just me, being all coy and ‘English’ again. In any event, I would much rather people were talking about the merits of my books, rather than the merits (or otherwise) of my bank balance.
As the article pointed out, it doesn’t necessarily do an author any favours when stories of huge advances are splashed all over the media (Kathleen MacMahon’s £500,000 was cited as an example of a huge advance in the article). It simply sets expectations very, very high – and possibly sets tongues wagging and gossips mongering and other unpleasant things occurring. And as other writers have pointed out on social media since the article was published, perhaps some authors are reluctant to discuss their advances because they don’t want to divulge how little they earn from writing.
Either way, I do think it raises an important point for anyone trying to get published, because the financial side of the business is often overlooked in favour of dreamy book deal moments. How the advances pay out in installments, for example, and how advances have to be earned out before any royalties are paid are important things to grasp. And I’m not sure anyone wants to talk about tax. Eugh.
Also of interest from the article, was the approach taken by writers like John Banville, who writes a different genre to his literary fiction under a pseudonym, Benjamin Black. Similarly, author Rowan Coleman writes as Scarlet Bailey. JK Rowling writes as Robert Galbraith. This multi-genre, multi-tasking seems to be a growing trend. I’ve always fancied having a pen name – maybe I’ll surprise you all one day and reveal that I am the mystery person behind the international bestseller everyone is talking about. In any of my names – real or imagined – that would be nice!
My final thoughts? As Sarah Webb says in the piece. “I don’t have a set income, and this isn’t a life that would suit everybody. You need to be dedicated to the cause. I can’t not write; it’s a compulsion, not a job.”